NATO Expands as Russian Threat Grows

Montenegro is set to become NATO’s 29th member.

The alliance’s mission has been seen, once again, as vital to the security of Europe in the wake of Russia’s vast military buildup, and its aggressive foreign policy which has included the recent invasion of Ukraine, incursions into the air and sea space of several nations, and the harassment of NATO air and naval forces.

A statement released by the Atlantic alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated:  “Membership will give Montenegro the ability to help shape NATO policy. It will bring more stability and security to the region, and therefore promoting prosperity”

Further dramatic changes may take place for the alliance, as Sweden and Finland both consider joining the organization. Finland, long threatened by Moscow, recently completed an analysis  considering key points.

According to the study, “Finland needs to adapt yet again to changing circumstances…Finland shares the broader strategic concerns of its EU partners, along with the rising challenges to both East and South of the continent. However, the EU does not possess the institutions and capabilities to deal with the full range of these strategic concerns by itself…geography gives particular importance to Russia, with which Finland shares a 1340 kilometre-long border. As an unsatisfied power, Russia has made unpredictability a strategic and tactical virtue, underpinned by an impressive degree of political and military agility. Russia has adopted a revisionist stand towards the norms and principles governing the European order…”

The report notes that any move to join—or not join– the alliance should only be considered jointly with Sweden.

Sweden, for its part, has moved closer to NATO, in response to Moscow’s significant threats. Moscow has moved air and missile forces close to Sweden, and is considering deploying much of its large tactical nuclear forces to the region as well. Russia possesses a ten to one advantage over the U.S. in tactical nuclear weapons.  Moscow has engaged in simulated attacks on Sweden, and its intelligence forces constitute an ongoing threat. The Swedish journal The Local  notes that “A poll released in October 2015 suggested that 41 percent of Swedes are in favor of seeking membership in the military defense alliance, 39 percent are against the idea and 20 percent are uncertain.”

As noted previously in the New York Analysis of Policy & Government, “The Scandinavian nation has already participated in some of the alliances’ activities.  Swedish forces joined with the NATO Response Force …in a joint training exercise.  Finland and Ukraine (this was before the invasion) also participated.  Both Finland and Sweden have moved closer to the alliance,  participating in key exercises and permitting NATO forces to be deployed within their nations.

[Former] NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmssen said that the relationship between the alliance and Sweden “is already strong.” Like the NATO nations, Sweden had seriously weakened its defense capabilities in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse, according to Defense News. It has been estimated that the nation has only a quarter of the capabilities it had during the Cold War era. Russia has engaged in provocative activities, including simulated attacks on Sweden.  That forced a new look at the diminished capability of the nation’s armed forces, which reportedly could only endure a week in the face of an attack by Moscow. However, in the wake of the Ukrainian invasion and Russia’s enormous rebuilding of its military might, it is both re-examining its own military capabilities as well as the advantages of joining NATO.”

The publication Foreign Affairs  suggests “The West would do well to consider a more robust long-term option to deter Russia from moving deeper into Europe. NATO should offer membership to Sweden and Finland, and Sweden and Finland should accept… Expanding NATO to Sweden and Finland would achieve several important aims. From a political standpoint, it would bring the NATO border ever closer to Russia, demonstrating that military aggression in Europe carries major geopolitical consequences. Sweden and Finland’s nonalignment has offered Russia a comforting buffer zone along its northwestern border ever since the end of World War II. If Sweden and Finland were to join NATO now, that buffer would be gone… From a military standpoint, Sweden and Finland would add technologically sophisticated and well-equipped armed forces to the alliance.”

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